Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sparrows and kinglets

Nice walk this morning through the park. This winter the place is crawling with American Tree Sparrows. The notables today were a Flicker and a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets in the woods. I managed a single more or less in focus shot, but the second picture is more representative. Something else was calling there too - maybe a Towhee.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Fox Sparrows! And renewed interest in Woodcock meadow restoration.

Fox Sparrow
Got to the park today around 8:00. It was 50 degrees and overcast.

The lower gardens were pretty quiet. I could hear blue jays when I first arrived and saw some sea gulls flying overheads. There were large flocks of goldfinches and house finches busy finding seeds on some of the tall weeds. A mockingbird perched on a branch and surveyed the area. A few song sparrows were hanging out in the old crabapple in the middle of the gardens. A small group of Canada geese honked as they flew by. A couple of American tree sparrows foraged on the path.

White-throated sparrow
The upper gardens were extremely quiet. I don't think I saw or heard one bird up there, so I decided to head down to the pond area where Haynes and I had seen a lot of different little birds looking for goodies in the now waterless vernal pool. Not very much there either. Where were they all?

As I headed down the path to the river, I came upon today's hangout. There were titmice flitting about, cardinals, chickadees, lots of white-throated sparrows and a couple of fox sparrows (shown top left) as well as many juncos, a few grackles and blue jays.

New Eagle Weathervane
There are some important updates to let you know about. One is that the City has repainted the nature center and it looks fantastic! Also, Judy Dore has replaced the aging weathervane atop the center with a new, beautiful eagle weathervane that is elegant and striking. I'm proud to say that The Friends of Nahanton Park donated the funds to reimburse Judy for the purchase.

Of great interest: Jon Regosin, Chief of Conservation Science for the National Heritage and Endangered Species Program of Massachusetts, is spearheading a renewed effort to restore Woodcock Meadow back to it's meadow state. Yesterday, over 10 people gathered together to assess the situation and come up with a new preliminary plan to revisit this issue and re-approach the City. We had members of the Newton Conservators, Friends of Nahanton Park, Charles River Canoe & Kayak and other experts and knowledgeable citizens to take a look at the meadow and prioritize the most immediate needs, which is essentially removing the large and invasive white pines and a few other large trees to control the succession to forest. A plan will be created to deal with the order or priorities, fundraising and overall management in general. We hope you will join us in this important endeavor.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Winter Respite

Cedar Waxwing
I arrived at the park around 7:30 a.m. Who could resist a day that promised to be in the 60's when it's almost the end of November? And so happy to have the day after Thanksgiving off from work. It was 50 degrees and a little overcast, but you could tell the sun was going to come out!

In the lower gardens was an enormous flock of Cedar waxwings. They'd hang out in a couple of trees together chattering amongst themselves and then wooosh - all of a sudden they'd fly to a different area en masse. The yellow edge of their tail feathers so dramatically yellow in the overcast light. A seagull flew overhead.

Goldfinches feeding
There were several blue jays, zillions of robins, a lone mockingbird and some titmice. The number of juncos has increased dramatically. A cardinal couple perched on a branch nearby and a few white-throated sparrows were singing. Large families of goldfinches were feasting on the artemesia weed seeds that abound in the meadow. I caught a glimpse of a red-bellied woodpecker on the trunk of a tree near the golf course and finally saw some American tree sparrows with their rufous head and dark breast spot. There were families of house finches too. Several of the birds were having fun bathing and drinking from the puddles along the path.

Red-tail Hawk
In the upper gardens, a flock of Canada geese flew over head and several juncos were busy looking for food along the ground. A few American tree sparrows were here as well and also more house finches. I turned my back to check out the path near the bee-hives and see if by some miracle and owl might appear and when I turned back around, I saw a large hawk fly in. It perched for a while and surveyed the situation. I'm not sure if it was looking for small birds or rodents, but either way, it didn't seem to find what it wanted and moved on.

Do be careful of ticks! This is the second week in a row that I've ended up with one on me. They seem to be rampant right now.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Very quiet at Nahanton...

Impromptu Gathering
I arrived at the park at about 7:30 this morning. It was about 44 degrees. Just as I pulled up, Haynes arrived and we started around together. Ian, Mary Lou and Judy ended up joining us in the upper gardens.

As in the title, it was pretty quiet today. It  was such a lovely morning, that I actually thought it might be a little busier and the others must have thought so too since so many turned out today by coincidence.

In the lower gardens, we saw several titmice, robins, goldfinches, blue jays, chickadees, song sparrows and house finches. Flocks of grackles and then crows flew overhead. Some juncos are back, but not in the large flocks we will see later on.

In the upper gardens, were a pair of white-throated sparrows, song sparrows, more juncos, and two
very vocal and active red-bellied woodpeckers.

The soccer field, pond and river were extremely quiet and devoid of birds, although I suppose it didn't help that two fishermen on the dock were playing their radio extremely loudly.

We walked through the meadow, and though the picture of a birch tree to right doesn't do it justice, the yellow-orange leaves were quivering and dancing in the wind and looked so striking against the crisp, blue sky.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lincoln Sparrow!

Lincoln Sparrow
I arrived at the park at 8:00. It was 49  degrees and sunny. A perfect October day!

I ran into Haynes and some other folks and we walked around together. In the lower gardens were robins and song sparrows, goldfinches, and some swamp sparrows. This lincoln sparrow was perched nearby and surprisingly got a halfway decent picture of him in his Harris tweed coat as Haynes likes to say. It was a good view of his buffy coloration near the breast. A flock of grackles flew overhead as well as some herring gulls. One of the first juncos to arrive was present joining our overwintering cardinals, blue jays and house finches.

As we headed to the upper gardens, we could hear a towhee calling "wheeeeet", although we never got to see him. I like to hope that we will have another overwintering towhee this year like we did a few years ago, but it's probably a long shot. There were some mourning doves, titmice and song sparrows. I caught a brief glimpse of a largish yellow bird which, thankfully, someone else witnessed too. After much discussion about it's yellow coloring and darkish gray wings, we finally settled on a female or young tanager. Cormorants in their "V" shape flew overhead. We saw a flicker and someone saw some black polls. Chippers foraged near the waste pile, chickadees hung upside down on sunflower heads trying to get the last of the seeds and a red-tailed hawk flew up above.

We revised the lower garden again and saw cowbirds, an eastern phoebe, yellow-rumps and a Merlin that flew quickly by, but all who saw it agreed that's what it was.

Down by the soccer field and pond area, was a red-bellied woodpecker, some nuthatches, robins, a hermit thrush (which only some saw), a female yellow-rump and a ruby-crowned kinglet!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Haynes' Fall Bird Walk sponsored by the Newton Conservators and the Friends of Nahanton Park

At 7:30 a.m., it was cloudy and 51 degrees - a good temperature to explore the park.

In the lower gardens, a few members of the group saw a blue-headed vireo which is always exciting. Unfortunately, I missed it. As we walked down the rows between the gardens, which are more floriferous than vegetable oriented at this point in the season, we saw some cowbirds, a savannah sparrow, swamp sparrows and chippers. Finally, I saw my first clay-colored sparrow which was absolutely beautiful! We saw a few yellow-rumps flitting here and there amongst the grasses and a ruby-crowned kinglet in the large, overgrown crabapple to the left of most of the plots. A red-tailed hawk was seen as well as some cedar waxwings. White-throated sparrows were present as well as some catbirds, song sparrows, chippers, blue jays, catbirds and goldfinches. A small flock of Canada geese flew overhead.

In the upper gardens. Hayes told us of a Saffron finch he had seen the previous weekend. It's not a bird anyone would ordinarily see here, as it is native to South America. What a spectacular bird! I hope it finds its way somewhere safe.

So, we didn't see the Saffron, but we did see some nuthatches, a phoebe, cardinals, chickadees, song sparrows, goodies, downies, jays and a flicker  - our normal fare - especially for this time of year.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fun Fall Feathers

The fall sparrows are finally coming in. Yesterday in the lower garden there was a White-crowned Sparrow, several White-throated Sparrows and Swamp Sparrows, and this morning I found a nice  Clay-colored Sparrow --

Yesterday there was also a beautiful Blackpoll Warbler,

and this bird in the upper garden --

This is a Saffron Finch. I saw a lot of them in Brazil in August, but this one is much bigger and brighter than what I remember. It's from a different subspecies, probably from Peru. This is a popular cage bird, in the news

because they are made to fight each other.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Haynes' Brookline Bird Club Fall Bird Walk

BBC Bird Walk
I always like to arrive early and do a little scouting around before an official bird walk. At 7:30 a.m., it was foggy and about 60 degrees.

We had an interesting crew - one of the group was an American who had lived in Sweden for such a long time, that the birds here were very exciting for him.

In the lower garden, were our usual song sparrows, robins, blue jays, chickadees, goldfinches, cardinals, catbirds, but in addition we saw a hummingbird and a red-eyed vireo which is always a treat.

In the upper gardens, were two phoebes, some titmice, downies, goldfinches, a common yellowthroat male and female, flickers, chipping sparrows, cardinals, nuthatches and a nice view of a hairy woodpecker which is always nice since we don't see them that often at Nahanton.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Blue heron replaces the cormorant!

Ready, set, march!
It was sprinkling slightly and cloudy at 7:45 a.m. and about 62 degrees.

Ran into Ian and then Sabrina in the lower gardens. The catbirds are still here and lots of goldfinches and song sparrows. A hummer whizzed by. Sabrina saw a redstart, but sadly, I missed it. There were several chipping sparrows, a mockingbird, robins, blue jays and titmice.

Ready for the catch!
In the upper gardens, we saw a flicker, cardinals, a phoebe, more catbirds, goldfinches, song sparrows, robins and chickadees. A beautiful common yellowthroat female appeared. We heard the peewee calling as usual. A black & white warbler made itself known and Ian and Sabrina saw an ovenbird and a chestnut-sided warbler. We also saw a pair of nuthatches, a late staying house wren, and a very late female oriole.

When we got to the river, we saw our blue heron which had been very scarce this summer almost in the same spot as the cormorant the week before! They are such amazing, large birds. I love to watch them.

As we walked through woodcock meadow, Ian spotted what we determined to be a pine warbler on a nearby branch. So all, in all, there were more than a few warblers seen.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Hummers love honeysuckle!

Hummer indulging!
At 7:20 a.m., it was clear and sunny and 58 degrees.

Hummers may love honeysuckle, but downies in the lower garden were going crazy for the huge sunflower seed heads.

It was a beautiful day and all our regulars were out and about - goldfinches, cardinals, catbirds, chippers, robins and their young, titmice and chickadees.

The hummer shown to left was in the upper gardens and it was obsessed with the bright red honeysuckle. If you've ever tried sipping the nectar yourself, you can understand what is so appealing. It's clear nectar is sweet and delicious for us too.

Down by the soccer field, was a phoebe, a flicker, catbirds, another hummer, a few cedar waxwing and a peewee calling from the woods.

As I approached the river, I was most surprised to see a large bird on a rock on the other side of the Charles. It was a cormorant. I have seen them on the Charles before, but not in this location. It was a great view, as you could see the tell-tale yellow beak clearly and it's large, webbed feet.

There will be a fall bird walk led by Haynes Miller on Oct. 4th at 8:00 a.m. Meet at the Nahanton St. entrance.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Time to Chat

The highlight this beautiful morning was a Yellow-breasted Chat, in the tree screen between the soccer field and the pond. There was also a Common Yellowthroat, a Black-and-white Warbler, and (along Florrie's Path) a Veerie.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fall warblers in August

I guess fall is here. This afternoon I found this Blackburnian Warbler to go along with Suzette's Canada Warbler from a few days ago. It was high in the trees near the JCC, along with some Chickadees. Hummers are still around, but the Catbird activity seems down. Also of interest was a rare sighting of a Horned House Finch, at right.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mystery Bird?

Back from vacation and anxious to get to the park before it got too hot. It was 67 degrees and sunny.

As I drove in to the park at the Winchester St. entrance, I was greeted by 3 turkeys on parade, aiming to cross the street to get to the other side! The fire house is empty and all equipment and personnel have been moved to the new building.

Common Yellow-throat Female
In the lower gardens were tons of robins, many of them enjoying the puddles created by last nights rain. A family of goldfinches was having a great time foraging for seeds in the bright magenta cosmos. There were hummers, a family of flickers, mourning doves, catbirds and house wrens. A downy woodpecker was hard at work removing seeds from a sunflower head. Song sparrow families were flitting about with their little tail-less young. A bright red cardinal perched on a garden fence and posed.

Mystery bird?? Had white eye ring.
As I headed up the path to the upper gardens a couple of common yellowthroats feeding in the meadow flew to the mulberry tree and were willing to be photographed which was quite surprising. I also encountered what I thought was a common yellow-throat at first, but it's belly was a brilliant yellow and the gray on it's back darker. It also had an eye ring, but couldn't get a good look at it. I have a rather poor picture below but if anyone can help me identify it, that would be much appreciated.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Chimney swifts flew high in the sky. Jays called from the woods. A family of chipping sparrows foraged on the ground near the dumping area where it now says "No Dumping"! There were more robins, hummers, downies, chickadees and catbirds. I heard a warbling vireo singing, but couldn't find it. Heard a funny little noise and caught this blue-gray gnatcatcher in the little willow tree near the beehives. It was solo which surprised me. The Concord grapes at the back of the gardens are turning their luscious deep blue/purple.

A nuthatch was making a racket as I cut through the woods to the soccer field area. The pond is all mud and grass and didn't see anything interesting there save for a bright male oriole and a couple of grackles.

Lots of people getting ready to canoe or kayak today. With such a hot forecast, being on the water is one of the best places to be!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hummer fever and a Blue Winged Warbler

I wanted to get to the park before I went on vacation. It's been a while. Not sure where the time has gone...

It was sunny and clear and pretty quiet. The tree swallows are done breeding and most have left which is also true of the yellow warblers, although a few remain. The meadow has some coneflowers and Queen Anne's lace in bloom. Very pretty.

The gardeners won't be happy, but several bunnies lined the path to the lower gardens and they hurried away as I approached. There were blue jays, robins, goldfinches and song sparrows. Then I was greeted by approximately three hummingbirds - a male, female and young one. I watched them for ages feeding on the sweet pea nectar shown in the photo above. I will never get over the magic of seeing hummingbirds, even though I see them almost everyday at my feeder for the summer. They are the most amazing creatures.

Common Yellow-throat Male
In the upper garden I saw another favorite (oh, who am I kidding, they're all my favorites) - a
common yellowthroat male. There's something about his black superhero mask and coloring that I find beautiful, but sort of comical at the same time. There were more hummers, robins, a family of house finches and a family of house wrens begging mom and dad for food.

Down by the soccer field were baby catbirds and parents eating bright red berries, robins, downies, 2 tree swallows, goldfinches, a pee wee and a few yellow warblers singing. The highlight was a brief sighting of a blue winged warbler. It's been quite a while since I have seen one.

The pond is dried up and couldn't even find a sandpiper. The river was also very low and only saw a song sparrow and a cardinal.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Nahanton Park was very pretty this morning! It was hard to drag myself away....

This Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was working a cherry tree near the lower gardens.

There were at least four Ruby-throated Hummingbirds around the back of the upper garden, including this cooperative male.
The Nahanton pond is on of the best places in eastern Massachusetts for Solitary Sandpipers. Here's one of four that were there this morning. A couple of them made repeated graceful loops around the pond, alighting briefly and taking flight again.
This Silver-spotted Skipper was dining on a Queen Anne's Lace in the upper field.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Owls and Eclipses

I walked through Nahanton Park early this morning, for the first time since the end of May. Quite a bit of activity! I think a number of species stage here in post-breeding dispersal. There were a lot of Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-shafted Flickers, and Black-capped Chicadees. On the river there was a row of eleven Wood Ducks, in eclipse plumage.

And a hundred yards into the forest from the parking lot off Winchester St, a ruckus of Blue Jays led me to this Great Horned Owl.

Here's a complete list. (Sorry for the Latin, as usual.)

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  11     lined up on the far side of the river. Eclipse plumage.
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  1
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  5
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)  1     
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  5
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  16     
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)  1
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)  1
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)  2
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  4     incl juv
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  2
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  10
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  5     breeding under the bridge
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  14
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  2
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  6     incl juv
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  4
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  35
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  16
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  1
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  5
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  6
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  12
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  5
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  1
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  1
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  4
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  8

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
It was 65 degrees at 7:14 a.m. and partly cloudy.

Blooming in the meadow were yellow coreposis, white oxeye daisies, penstemon, fleabane, red clover and yarrow.

As I entered the lower gardens via the path from the parking lot, I got dive-bombed by a tree swallow who felt like I was a little too close to her nest box! There were lots of robins, a couple of male downy woodpeckers, yellow warbler, catbirds, red-winged blackbirds, orioles, cardinals, flickers and song sparrows. A seagull flew overhead.

On the way to the upper gardens, the white mulberry tree was fruiting. There were many of the same birds as the lower, but also included a family of house wrens, an Eastern phoebe and this beautiful fellow that I finally saw after listening to his song for quite a while. There he was in all his glorious splendor!

The soccer field/river area had a warbling vireo (found the nest), yellow warblers, a pee wee calling from the woods and cowbirds.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


Tom Turkey
Got to the park this morning around 8:00. It was 68 degrees and cloudy as it had rained earlier.

In the parking lot, I was greeted by catbirds and a nuthatch and headed into the lower gardens. Saw some robins, yellow warblers, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, tree swallows and goldfinches. Tomatoes, flowers and vegetables of all kinds have been planted and are starting to take off, even though it's still pretty early. A blue heron flew overhead.

Checked out the oriole nest for little Henry, but the parents must have been out looking for food, although I could hear some orioles calling to each other. A blue heron flew overhead. Some very large mourning doves perched together on a horizontal pole.

I was happy to see more song sparrows today. There seemed to be plenty of them. I kept thinking of the Joni Mitchell song "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone". Seeing so few early in the spring was a little scary, but I think they're o.k. A crow was getting mobbed by at least ten birds of different types, but they were high up and it was hard to tell who they were.

I thought I'd take the new path this morning and immediately ran into Tom turkey (photo above) and his wife. I quickly turned around as I didn't want to take any chances that he might think I was competition for his girl. They can be very dangerous if upset. He was quite debonaire looking. Contrary to others who think turkeys might be ugly, I love them. For anyone who thinks they aren't smart, they should watch the documentary "My Life As a Turkey". It gives one a much better understanding of turkeys.

Wild Rose
The upper gardens were much the same with orioles, tree swallows, grackles, house wrens etc. I kept hearing an Eastern phoebe, but never did locate it.

At the soccer field area I could hear a peewee calling from the woods near the JCC as well as a warbling vireo. The yellow warbler nest has virtually disappeared. It's so amazing. I saw them building it, took pictures and still can't find it now that the shrub has leafed out. Lots of robins, tree swallows, mourning doves and grackles.

I was hoping for the wood ducks again, but no luck there. However the mallard and her 9? little babies was there. Her husband was nearby, but obviously not into child care.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Busy times

Busy times this morning at Nahanton Park.
The very conspicuous Baltimore Oriole nest in the small tree next to the lower garden is quite active. Here's mom with a worm ....

 diving into the nest to be sure it gets delivered ....

Little Henry pokes his head out!

Mom says, "Not yet, son!" and leaves with some housekeeping in her bill.

The bugs were out too, and not just mosquitos ....

I believe this is a Little Glassywing, a type of skipper butterfly. I found it in the upper field, along with the male Stream Cruiser below.

There were lots of these Little Wood-satyrs around the lower garden.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Wood Ducks

Dad checking on young
It was 58 degrees at 7:00 a.m., clear and sunny.

The lower gardens are looking much more active now that the weather has warmed up and the gardeners are in full swing. Of course we had our tree swallows busy with raising their families, but also had cowbirds, house wrens singing, song sparrow couples, crows, robins and blue jays. Yellow warbler couples were also very present and busy in addition to catbirds and goldfinches.

The Baltimore oriole nest is so visible, I had to stand and watch for a while. At first the parents were busy finding food, but eventually they each came back and took turns feeding the babies in the nest. Haynes had mentioned that there were several American Redstarts and I just barely caught a glimpse of one as it whizzed past me.

Mom ready for her turn
The upper gardens had much the same as the lower. I like to check out the hole in the broken birch where the chickadees were exploring earlier in the spring and sure enough, out flew a chickadee so I guess they really did decide to nest there. I wasn't sure... The male grosbeak was singing up a storm. At first, he was foraging low to the ground which was fun to watch, as mostly he is perched high up in the tree tops. He did end up there singing for quite a long time. A warbling vireo warbled away in the woods. The peewee has made it's way back to the woods behind the upper gardens and was singing in one of the large oak trees. He was visible on a dead branch which is so often where you see them.

In the pond, I was surprised to see three male wood ducks, very brightly colored, calmly swimming around. I thought for sure my mere presence from quite a distance would frighten them which in a way it did. They didn't fly away, but quietly swam out of sight. A mother mallard hung around the edge of the pond feeding with her many baby ducklings. No sign of the muskrat or beaver. Turtles sunned themselves on a dead log at the far end.

Woodcock meadow was quiet - a few robins, a house wren, catbirds and a pair of mourning doves.